Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Mother’s Day 2008

Mother’s Day has not usually been a fun holiday at our house.  In the past, it normally required getting up early on a Sunday, getting dressed up and schlepping a fair distance to pick up relatives we dread spending time with, and then going out for an overpriced, overcooked brunch.  Exchange of sappy cards and some flowery hanging basket destined to die on the front porch came next.  Followed up by uncomfortable discussion of “happy family memories” that don’t exist, arguing ensues, and someone leaves in a huff, while someone else gets to say, “see I told you so” superior.

This year was not like that.

This year, my mom came up to my house at 11AM.  My husband cooked us all an amazing breakfast.  We read the Sunday paper.  We discussed the upcoming primary vote.  Then we settled in for two movies, 27 Dresses and Juno.  During the movies, we made bacon sandwiches with the breakfast leftovers (toast, bacon, cheese), and then chocolate chip waffles, complete with whipped cream.  We would have put strawberries on them, but we got an under-ripe bunch and they tasted more like Styrofoam.

Side Note: We have the best waffle maker in the whole world.  I highly recommend it, and if you haven’t had chocolate chip waffles, you’re missing out.  Just pour your waffle batter into the iron, then sprinkle the chips on top.  Close the iron, flip and bake until done.  Allow it to cool a bit, then spray with whipped cream – the real stuff only!- or dust with powdered sugar.  Heaven!

There was no early wake up call, no dressing up, no overpriced crappy food, no arguing, no misery, and no family we dread.  Just my kids, my husband and my mom.  We still did the sappy cards, and instead of a hanging basket I’m going to pay for a housekeeper for a month at my mom’s place (she’ll get the place cleaned twice in a month), or she can pick one housecleaning and one grooming for her dog.  Her choice.  Much more practical than a plant that will die.

It was great to just be able to enjoy the day without a lot of stress and pressure to “celebrate” Mother’s Day.  Like my mom said while she was here, we don’t need someone to tell us that we love each other on a certain day.  We appreciate each other all the time.

I’m hoping we can make a tradition out of this- breakfast at home, movies, chocolate chip waffles and just enjoying each other’s company.  Much better than the alternative!

Thanks to my wonderful husband for all his hard work today, and to my kids for being such great girls!  And to my mom, to whom I owe so much.  I wouldn’t be me without you.  Without any of you.  Thank you.

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The door is off the hinges…

He called tonight.  Tentatively asked for me, and asked if I was sitting down.  I told him I’d already found the obituary in the papers here and in CA.  I asked what happened as the obit didn’t list a cause, still assuming illness or car accident.  After all, 24 is pretty young to die.

It was suicide.  Leaving behind a 16 month old baby.

This was not just a regular, run-of-the-mill female-type suicide.  Studies show women will attempt more often with less success than men as a cry for help.  In cases where they are successful, 20-24 YO women typically choose or hanging/suffocation over firearms according to JAMA.

My brother- still odd to say that- told me of her long struggle with drugs, alcohol and what some in the family perceived as mental illness.  He said they’d all taken their turns trying to convince her to get help for any and all of the above, but her attempts to do so were short-lived and exacerbated by her lack of truthfulness with her doctors.  He said they all knew she’d been having a rough time of it lately, and her husband had been trying to get her into some kind of treatment.  They did not lack for options- they had health insurance that would cover treatment, and family willing to support that choice.

She made the choice instead to shoot herself in front of her husband.  She cocked the gun with that distinctive “click” sound, he turned around and saw what she was about to do, yelled out to her, running to her, and when he was within arm’s reach she pulled the trigger under her chin.

I cannot imagine witnessing something this awful.  I cannot imagine the pain her husband, mother and other family members are going through.  I am shaken by this entire development of events.

I said before that I didn’t feel the need to grieve.  I’m feeling something very different right now, a sadness, questioning and sense of tragedy I didn’t feel before.

My brother told me he was at my stepsister’s home in CA with his mom and that the husband and baby were with them.  He expects to be there a week or two, and then will come home.  He was happy to hear I was open to meeting with him, and promised to contact me when he gets back in town.  He sounded exhausted, saying the family was going through the whole range of emotions, questioning every recent interaction with his sister, going over anything they could have done to stop this from happening- just raw emotion.  I did the same thing, and I didn’t even know her.  I was only related to her through my father.  We talked of the tendency towards depression that runs in our family, how our father fought it most of his life, how we’d each dealt with it ourselves.  He is so young to have this much loss, a father and a sister, especially in this way.

This is the second suicide I’ve dealt with in my life.  The first was a good friend who jumped off a bridge after he was diagnosed with AIDS.  It was horrible and tragic, just like this one. I’ve not had a lot of loss compared to some folks, other than my father’s death 14 years ago, and the death of a good friend in a car accident 20 years ago.  I worry how I’ll cope when it’s someone I’m really close to.

I worry for the husband, and how he will be able to move on from this to parent his daughter.  I worry about the daughter, growing up without a mother and knowing why.   You can tell a kid all day long it didn’t have anything to do with them, but they always question, always wonder, and turn that finger of blame upon themselves.  It happens with divorce, death, addiction, abandonment, all of it.  I pray she will grow up with a strong family support system around her that will outweigh this.  The impact of suicide never stops- the rings in the pond that rock was dropped in just keep coming for all those involved.

My heart aches for the survivors of this tragedy.  I will pray for all of them.

In which the past knocks on my virtual door

I am an only child.  My parents divorced when I was 5, and it was a long, messy, damaging process.  No one came out unscathed.  My father remarried quickly- my new stepmother already had three children.  Long story short, it was made known that I was not welcome during my court-sanctioned visits to my father’s house.  I quit going when I was about 14.  This was assisted by my father moving and not telling me where he moved to.  My father and stepmother had two children after that, a girl and a boy, neither of whom I knew at all.

My father died in 1994, unexpectedly to everyone.  I was contacted by my long-lost uncles who informed me of the services.  I attended, much to the surprise of that side of the family.  I was still the outsider, still not really welcomed.

Three weeks ago, I attend a political event and run into Stepmother.  She recognized me first, and I was just floored to see her after nearly 15 years.  We had some small talk, and that was that.  It was a shock to see her, and it dredged up emotions I hadn’t visited in a long time.

Fast forward to Tuesday 4/29.  My oldest gets a MySpace IM from my half-brother, who is now 23.  He introduces himself as her uncle, and says he wants to talk to us, get to know us.  Oldest comes downstairs and says, “There some guy named **** who says he’s my uncle and wants to talk to us.  Who is he?” So I have to say, yes that is true, and explain the situation.  His message says he wants to know more about the family.

I get on MySpace, and find him.  There’s all these messages from his friends in the prior 48 hours about “sorry for your loss”, “if you need to talk”, “shoulder to cry on”, etc.  I gather someone had died, and it is one of the sisters.  I don’t know which one- my step or my half, so I email him.

In the meantime, my poking around on the internet reveals that it is in fact my half sister who died on 4/23 at the age of 24, leaving behind a husband and 14 month old baby.  I don’t know what happened to cause this yet, but I’m sure I’ll find out eventually.   It’s an incredibly sad story, but because I didn’t know her, I don’t feel a great sense of personal loss.  Of course, you people will think I’m a monster for that, I’m sure.  I have every sympathy for her husband, baby and her family, but I don’t feel a need to grieve personally.

In my email to my half-brother (even writing that sounds weird to me), and said if he wanted to talk, I’d be open to that.  He wrote back the next day and said he was glad I’d written, and that he’d wanted to reach out for a long time.  It seems that this loss has encouraged him to do so.  I’ve been waiting for a call from him ever since.

My problem at this point is, I have no idea what this kid has been told about me, and what kind of family stories he believes or judgments he’s already made.  My family is not easy (whose is?), and I frankly don’t know what this kid will want from me, if anything at all other than a connection to his father.  Which I barely have anyway.  The whole thing is a real emotional upheaval, and I was not prepared to have to deal with this kind of thing after my father died.  I just figured I’d be written off by that part of my family, and that would be that.  They have never made any efforts to keep in touch with me or to reach out in even a cursory way, and I did not expect that to change.

I have always identified as an only child, never as someone with siblings, because I never really felt I was a member of that family.  Now I have someone saying, “I’m your brother”, and to my kids, “I’m your uncle”.  And I don’t know what to make of that.  I want to give this a chance, see what he wants to know, but I really feel like my guard is up.  I wish I didn’t feel that way, especially since I know next to nothing about this kid, and that’s not his fault, but nor is it mine.

What I’m really wondering is why the Universe decided to open this particular window now.   What is in store for me?  I’m almost afraid to find out, but that would be unadventurous.  I’m forging ahead, reservations and all, to see what lies beyond.